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Employers push to cut pay, hours

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Clay Lucas

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Casual workers shunted in Fair Work review

Plans to cut minimum working hours and award rates, the missing Aussie pollie in Sri Lanka and the latest Newspoll results in today's political news with Tim Lester.

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EMPLOYERS have expanded their push to cut minimum working hours - in one case to as little as 90 minutes a day for school students - and to slash weekend pay for casuals.

They are also moving to abolish evening penalty rates and to narrow the definition of ''shift work'', according to submissions to a major review of the awards system being conducted by Fair Work Australia.

Unions, after analysing more than 200 submissions to the review, have accused employers of ''merely laying the foundation'' for an Abbott government to cut wages and conditions.

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''What employer groups want is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week economy in which they have all the flexibility, the power and control over who works when and how little they are paid,'' said ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence.

But employer groups say the push to reduce entitlements for some workers is a direct result of the Rudd and Gillard governments having allowed costs to dramatically escalate for businesses from 2009.

The Fair Work review will set future awards covering most jobs across Australia, and took submissions until last month.

The ACTU seized on a submission from the National Retail Association arguing in favour of reduced minimum hours for secondary school students employed as casuals. The retail group wants a Fair Work Australia decision last year for a 90-minute-a-day minimum for students to be expanded into other retail awards.

The ACTU also cited employer submissions arguing for:

■Reduced penalties for casual employees, particularly on weekends and public holidays.

■New annualised salary arrangements that would avoid payment of allowances, penalties and overtime.

■A narrowing of the definition of shift work to reduce access to pay and leave entitlements.

■Discounted rates for apprentices and trainees where adult rates have traditionally applied

Mr Lawrence said the submissions showed employers wanted a return to the former WorkChoices policies of the Coalition. ''Australia's employer groups have never accepted the reality that WorkChoices-style laws were whole-heartedly rejected,'' Mr Lawrence said.

Australian Industry Group director of workplace relations Stephen Smith accused unions of trying to portray all employer requests as unreasonable.

He said the last review of awards across all industries - which was completed in 2009 and crunched over 1500 industry agreements down to 122 - had created a raft of problems for businesses.

Many employers were now struggling to cope with the increased costs. ''For example, afternoon shift loadings in the glass industry increased from 15 per cent to 50 per cent … and the new loadings are having a major negative impact on the industry,'' Mr Smith said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said the unions' analysis had misleadingly implied that employer claims were across all industries.

''The ACTU is implying employers are being greedy and unreasonable in these demands, but is failing to disclose the areas where employers have had to accept significant new regulations and costs'' since 2009.

Mr Anderson said the government had at the time promised employees no loss in pay, and employers no huge increase in labour costs. Only the first promise was kept, he said.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said employers needed ''practical solutions to practical problems'' - something not being provided by current workplace laws.

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199 comments

  • The unfettered greed of the employers is simply breathtaking. The economy is there to serve the people, not he other way around!

    Commenter
    Guy Fawkes for PM
    Date and time
    April 10, 2012, 7:23AM
    • What an absurd idea! If it weren't for the economy, none f us would even be here. The better we serve the economy, the better it is for all of us. It was there before we were born, and it will be there long after we die -- all we can do is strive to improve it for our fellow man. Reducing wages and increasing productivity will go some way to achieving that, and ensuring also the longevity of those glorious employers we work for..

      Commenter
      mandelbrot
      Location
      canberra
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 8:17AM
    • Are employers not people?

      No one is forcing people to work for less. The only people using force are employees who get regulation backed by courts to force society to pay more for services than what would otherwise be the case.

      Commenter
      Ironbark
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 8:41AM
    • I see, mandlebrot. So explain to me this: reducing wages and increasing working hours will improve my life how? You wouldn't happen to be an employer, would you?

      Commenter
      The Redman
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 8:51AM
    • If you pay employees less there will be less money circulating around in our beloved economy.
      People work for money / people who earn money spend money / businesses do well when people with money spend it. It's not that hard to understand, is it?

      Commenter
      betty
      Location
      vic
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 8:52AM
    • Mandelbrot, it looks like they're paying you too much. You need a pay cut. Take what you're earning and cut it in half and see how you like it. How charitable of you. Gina, Twiggy and Clive would be proud, as their wallets are feeling a little empty at the moment.

      Commenter
      Tone
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 8:59AM
    • The prices at Ottoman's will come down The Redman! That's a victory.

      Commenter
      Gay Refugee
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 9:06AM
    • The Redman Location Canberra Date and time April 10, 2012, 8:51A

      I think Mandlebrot's use of 'glorious' gives the game away - the tongue is firmly planted.

      Commenter
      kepler-22b
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 9:15AM
    • Ironabark,

      "Are employers not people?"

      The simple answer to your question is "no, employers are not people".

      You see, "people" are members of a species known as "Homo Sapiens Sapiens". You can recognise a person from the fact that they (usually) have two arms, two legs, one head, and a heap of internal organs including a brain that allows us to function as independent biological entities, to produce to reproduce, to love, to take responsibility for their actions and to be responsible members of a society.

      "Employers" are entities that exploit (or "employ") human labour-power and accumulate wealth by appropriating most of the value produced by that labour. In our late-capitalist society, "employers" are business entities of various kinds, including registered business, corporations, private companies, registered clubs, government agencies and the like. They do not have arms, legs, heads, internal organs, brains, consciousness or conscience.

      You can see the difference, can't you? A "person" is a highly intelligent and evolved great-ape, and an "employer" is a legal construction that exists only on paper. And "employer" may be OWNED BYa person, but it can never BE a person.

      Now, to get down to the heart of matters. Our economy exists to serve the needs of the PEOPLE. It doesn't work the other way around. Employers, as NON-HUMAN entities within the economy, exists solely and purely to serve the needs of the PEOPLE. If they cannot operate their businesses UNDER EXISTING CONDITIONS in a socially useful manner, they have no business operating in the first place and all that keeping them in business will achieve is to waste resources.

      Things are getting tight. Resources are getting scarce. We cannot afford to carry inefficient businesses who cannot afford to treat their employees with justice.

      Commenter
      v
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 10:03AM
    • We live in a 24 hour / 7 days a week world and we shouldn't be bound by the antiquated practices of LABOUR UNIONS that hark back to the 1950's. Employers and employees need flexibility. Employers provide our jobs and wealth. Stop trying to paint employers in such a bad light and have a look instead at the damage the unions are doing to our economy with their inflexible, unreasonable and exploitative ways. The union movement is regressing under this Labor govt, rather than progressing.

      Commenter
      kiki
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      April 10, 2012, 10:24AM

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